Monday, October 15, 2007

Yes it's not about ideas

Jonas’s reply to the “holy crap” was heartwarming. I do not feel that I necessarily share the hardboiled materialism he defends, but the major point, that it is not ideas which are the enemy, felt immensely fresh, and it can be defended without any commitments to metaphysical articles of faith. Mistaking ideas for enemies, and in general opionions as at all very relevant on the interpersonal level, provides the basis for much misery; the categorisation of people based on rhetorical choices of opinions does not only grotesquely overvalue pure personality market strategies, but also stands in the way for a large part of the spectrum of human interaction and regularly leads even to socially meaningless violence (if there is such a thing, perhaps I mean socially misdirected violence?)

On one hand, it is present in the unbearably liberal-panting Öffentlichkeit concept (as Jonas points out), where we are all good citizens if we don’t touch each other physically but only verbally abuse each other, since that somehow is supposed to be the ideas rather than the human beings standing against each other, testing their robustness and supposedly thereby truth value by way of their rhetorical power, which also is the rationale behind these unbearable popular education campaigns from above, including these moral campaigns where journalists, politicians and intellectuals borrow the whole verbal arsenal of political activism, the aggressive-pragmatic and simplifying-militaristic rhetorics, applying it outside the political sphere making it conceal rather than crudely reveal the social contradictions, in this supposedly wellmannered and highly civilised sphere of public polemics, while reifying all these bad ideas in a systematically mystifying way-

And on the other hand, it is also present in counterpart within the little private sphere to this public power exertion; in the secondary-school-like, pub-brawl-like, tv-debate-like mode of discussing through raising arguments against each other; as if it was logical stringency that determined peoples concepts and as if people were happy to retreat facing better arguments, as if it was meaningful or fun to “battle” with opinions, as if it was important to object when not agreeing to something said and refrain from objecting when agreeing, as if a person had more affinity with and more personal interest in those who have chosen more similar statements to defend than others-

Against this bizarre faith in ideas, I want to emphasize three points repeatedly made by different members in the group:
1) that ideas are figures of thought, simply more or less fruitful in how they are able to create more or less advantageous atmospheres and continuing thoughts and fantasies (NN),
2) that dialogue is primarily about finding unique ways of communicating rather than about the explicit statements made (CA)
3) that ideas can be dynamical (not the least in the shape of objections, questionings, wondering about obvious things or things taken for granted) to the extent that they open up for unusual ways of thinking, unusual courses of events, dynamical obstructions, fruitful collapses, unusual experiences and curiosity-breeding bad faith (SS).

From these three perspectives, which largely coincides with what Jonas says but with a micro perspective to complete his very macro, it does not matter whether the ideas are correct or not, it simply does not have the ultimate importance for the choice between them or the confrontation between them, it does not have the ultimate importance for their social, historical, poetical function.

The battle over ideas feels very much like a highstrung 18th century-liberal doll house world. I believe what we are doing rather concerns the battle over sensibility, the battle over everyday life, and the battle over history. Or perhaps something else?


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